Westborough State Hospital

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Westborough State Hospital
Westborough State Hospital
Established 1884
Opened 1887
Closed 2010
Demolished 2019
Current Status Demolished
Building Style Cottage Plan
Architect(s) Elias Carter & James Savage/Kendall, Taylor & Stevens
Location Westborough, MA
Architecture Style Greek & Colonial Revival
Alternate Names
  • Westborough Insane Asylum


The Brigham Farm, later the Peter Farm, was purchased in 1846 for the State Reform School, later the State Hospital (1885). The Westborough State Hospital was established by Chapter 322 of the Acts of 1884 as the Westborough Insane Hospital. In a major departure from other state hospitals, its trustees were not directed to find a new site and make plans for new buildings, but rather to develop a scheme to reuse the structures recently vacated by the State Reform School for Boys. The site, which by then totaled 275 acres, had been developed around the 180-acre former farmstead of Lovett Peters, Esq., and adjacent acreage owned by the Rice family.

George Clough of Boston was engaged to remodel the building which had housed 400-500 boys and had been declared unfit for reform school purposes due to its large size and jail-like appearance. To adapt the building for occupancy by 325 "insane" patients, Clough demolished the center of the existing building, which dated from 1876, and replaced it with a gambrel roof section housing a congregate dining room on its first floor with a chapel above. The alterations began on May 18, 1885, and were apparently complete by December 1, 1886, when a reception was held for Governor George D. Robinson. A few days later, the first 204 patients (almost all chronic cases who were able to pay for their treatment) were received from Worcester, and then Danvers, Taunton, and Northampton. In the meantime, Dr. N. Emmons Paine, formerly assistant physician at the State Homeopathic Asylum for the Insane in Middletown, New York, had been appointed Superintendent and had begun to formulate the hospital's unique program of treatment along with the Board of Trustees. Two years later, Dr. Paine was appointed as lecturer in insanity at the Boston University Medical School.

Unlike its contemporaries in Massachusetts, Westborough was to be run according to homeopathic principles, which emphasized rest (sometimes enforced), massage, hydrotherapy, and special diet while avoiding use of available hypnotics and sedatives like morphine, opium, iromide, and chloral. This did not mean that drug therapy was totally ignored, since milder antispasmodics like belladonna, hyoscyamus, stramonium, and veratrin were occasionally administered for mania and restlessness. Bedrest and massage were thought to be particularly useful for patients admitted with melancholia or in a debilitated condition. Hydrotherapy, consisting of graduated spray baths, graduated tub baths, cold sponging, and wetpacks, was felt to be of use for all acute cases.

At the turn of the century, several buildings and groups of buildings were erected specifically for acute or chronic cases. First was the Hospital for Acute Cases, located east of the Main Hospital. During the early twentieth century, the hospital's acreage expanded to 650 acres, much of it prime agricultural land. As was the case at other institutions, the farm provided valuable work therapy opportunities as well as a steady supply of food.

The Westborough Insane Hospital was officially renamed as the Westborough State Hospital in 1907 in accordance with a systemwide initiative. As was typical here and nationally, a wide variety of new programs aimed at research, general health, prevention, and outpatient services were established. When the Governor & Council's committee visited Westborough in 1945, the patient population had swelled to 1,730, well over the normal capacity of 1,332. At the same time, the staffing level was at a low of 239, with 210 vacancies due to the effects of World War II. Many buildings were seriously overcrowded, and several, including the old 1848 Lyman School, were noted as firetraps. A few criminally insane women were among the inmates, and due to lack of proper accommodations, had killed an unspecified number of other patients in recent months.

The hospital was closed in 2010, in anticipation of a new Worcester State Hospital opening in 2012. Almost all of the buildings at Westborough State Hospital were demolished in 2019.


Westborough State Hospital, Images of America Series, Anderson, Katherine, 2019, ISBN: 9781467103183

Images of Westborough State Hospital[edit]

Main Image Gallery: Westborough State Hospital